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Make-Ahead Meals

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Roast Chicken

Last week I wrote about finding a new rhythm for weeknight meals now that my husband and I have our first child. In response, a few people (who may or may not be psychic) wrote in the comments section that they like to whip up big batches of things like rice, beans and simply cooked vegetables each weekend, and then incorporate these staples into various different dishes throughout the week. Little did they know that was the very topic I'd planned to tackle for my next column.

I’ve always loved the idea of cooking ahead for the week, although I haven't necessarily been great at it in practice. Having a baby has now made it a vital part of the eating well equation. I’ve found that by making just two or three simple things over the weekend, I’m able to coast through much of the week, dipping into our pantry and freezer here and there and supplementing with produce from the farmers market.

Here’s what I made two weekends ago, and how it carried us through last week:

Saturday: I roasted two small chickens using just salt, pepper and olive oil. I also cooked a pound of semi-pearled farro and made this lemon vinaigrette, which has been my default salad dressing lately -- the whole thing took me about an hour, and we had a delicious dinner of roast chicken, farro sautéed with shallots and olive oil, and a big green salad.

Sunday: In the morning, I plucked the leftover chicken from the bones and threw the carcasses into a big pot with a few carrots and half an onion; I simmered this for most of the day, adding more water as it cooked, to make a simple, rich stock. I cooled the stock, put it in the fridge, and we met Jonathan's aunt for an early dinner at our favorite Argentinian steak place in Jackson Heights.

Monday: For dinner, we had leftover steak with chimichurri (you can make your own using this great recipe), farro moistened with some of the chicken stock, and steamed haricots verts drizzled with a little more chimichurri.

Tuesday: Dinner this evening was defrosted sweet and sour brisket, with a side of farro risotto that I prepared using some of the homemade chicken stock and made extra creamy by folding in a dollop mascarpone.

Wednesday: Jonathan worked late, so I had a solo dinner of salad and cheese with a cool, crisp glass of rosé. (Jonathan doesn't like cheese, but this meal is pretty much my idea of heaven.)

Thursday: After I had drinks with Amanda and our friend Sarah Shatz, Jonathan and I had a late dinner of leftover chicken and this simple farro salad: 2 cups of cooked farro tossed with 2 tablespoons chopped scallions, 1 tablespoon chopped green olives, 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped preserved lemon and lemon vinaigrette to taste (watch the video below to see how it's made).

Friday: After a long week and a sudden drop in temperature, I was ready for comfort food in the form of chicken soup: I added sliced carrot and celery to the chicken stock and then cut what was left of the chicken into chunks, adding it to the pot along with the few remaining spoonfuls of farro. A little lemon juice and a few grinds of ground black pepper finished it off. We ate the soup with a baguette retrieved from the freezer and crisped in the oven, slathered with good salted butter.

Farro Salad with Scallions, Green Olives and Preserved Lemon

Farro Salad with Scallions, Green Olives and Preserved Lemon

Now that I've shared my dinner diary for the week, it's your turn! What are your favorite make-ahead staples, and how do you stretch them to last throughout the week?

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Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Make Ahead, Amanda & Merrill, Editors' Picks